A ‘D’-ifferent look

Kali Price

With spotlight off Cribbs, Parrish looks to shine

Senior defensive linebacker Justin Parrish goes for a tackle on Oct. 16, 2004 at Dix Stadium. Parish’s 14 sacks last season was second in the MAC and fifth in the nation.

Credit: Jason Hall

Setting the school’s single-season sack record, being a Lombardi Award candidate, being selected to the All-Mid-American Conference second-team and returning this season as the top quarterback sack leader in the nation doesn’t seem to affect senior linebacker Justin Parrish.

He doesn’t let any of that phase him.

All Parrish cares about this season is having fun — and finishing his senior year with a championship ring.

In the 2004 season, Parrish’s record 14 sacks, adding to the team’s school-record 34 sacks, ranked him as No. 2 sack artist in the MAC and No. 4 nationally.

Parrish helped the Flashes’ defense to a number one overall status in the MAC as well as the No. 1 rush defense in the conference.

Even more impressive, the Flashes also had the number 17-ranked defense in the NCAA.

But the records and the recognition show the humility of Parish’s nature.

“The records are just me having a gift or a talent,” Parrish said. “I don’t really let that pressure me because if I do, I’ll start messing up plays like if I’m thinking about ‘what if I don’t get a sack?’ So, I just go out there and have fun. I don’t let that bother me.”

Other than just setting records and doing well this season, Parrish could also add several other honors to his resume.

On Aug. 22, Parrish was named to the Lombardi Award watch list. The annual award will be presented to the country’s best linebacker in December.

“It’s very much deserved,” coach Doug Martin said. “When you look at what Justin did last year he probably didn’t get enough credit. I think people are recognizing him now for what he is. If he can go out and maintain what he did and prove what he did last year, then he’s got a chance to be successful.”

Parrish said that confidence is the key to success on the defensive end.

“If you’ve got confidence and you know that you can do what you can do, it comes natural to you,” Parrish said.

Confidence and preparation come natural to Parrish. As does leading by example.

Parrish said he doesn’t need to open his mouth or give his younger teammates advice to be a leader.

“I’m not really a leader as far as speaking,” Parrish said. “I think I lead by example with how I play and by my attitude on the field.”

Parrish’s ability to lead by example has been even further strengthened by his preparation and work over the summer.

“I think Justin’s probably in the best shape that he’s ever been in,” Martin said. “He really worked hard this summer and dedicated himself to trimming down and coming to camp in great running shape.”

Not only is Parrish’s speed important to his own personal game, but the overall speed on the defensive line is another factor that will lead to its success this season.

“Well we have a lot of team speed on defense, and we’re probably two deep, at least,” said Martin, referring to the team’s depth on defense. “If we can add a little depth to the safety position then there’s no reason we can’t be as good or better than we were last year.”

Parrish will help guide the Flashes in their attempt to continue their four-game winning streak in East Lansing, Mich. tomorrow.

But according to coach Doug Martin, the defense might have a tough time stopping the run against Big Ten opponent Michigan State.

“We’re going to be facing a Michigan State team that’s got the best offense in the Big Ten,” Martin said. “They averaged 460 yards a game last year and nobody really slowed them down. Even as good as our defense is, it’s going to be a tough task.”

Despite that fact, Parrish has a lot of faith in his team.

“We have a great chance,” Parrish said. “We’ve got speed on both sides of the ball, we’ve got great athletes all around. The team is young, but athletic. We’ve got a great chance at getting (the win) too. We’re just as good as any other team, Division-I or in the MAC. When we go up there to Michigan, we’re going to show them what we’re about.”

Parrish said that his goal for his final season as a Golden Flash is to win the MAC Championship — especially for the championship ring.

In order to achieve that, Parrish said he just has to play his role.

“The expectations I hold myself up to is just to go out there and do my job, which means to do my assignments correct and not mess up,” Parrish said. “I don’t go in with the intention of getting a certain number of sacks and tackles. Good things will come to you if you just play with the defense and play the game right. Everyone has their own role, so my expectations are to do what coach says and go out there and execute (the plays) right.”

Parrish made no bones about it, the Flashes expect to win it all this season.

“Keep your eyes open,” Parrish said. “We’re going to surprise everybody.”

Contact assistant sports editor Kali Price at [email protected].